‘Appangal embadum’ singer Anna Katharina Valayil says her songs contain her heart and soul

From packing all the punch into 40 seconds, Anna Katharina Valayil is learning to live bigger, seeking herself in songs four minutes long. Anna may not be a household name yet, but her full-fledged solo number ‘Appangal embadum’ from Ustad Hotel, at once hilarious and dance-worthy, is. The song in which the profoundest lyric could well be ‘puttu kutti vattayipoyi’ may not be a purist’s delight. But it is on everyone’s lips, on the dance floors, serenading FM stations and inviting equally mad re-mixes. And the inquisitive listener is bound to seek the powerful voice behind it — Anna.

The girl from Allepey is multi-faceted. She has no formal training in music, but rather a masters in media production, a private license to fly from Melbourne, and experience as a public relations manager at a five-star hotel in Kochi. She arrived in the field through jingles and re-recordings. “I started with jingles and have done the re-recording for five to six songs,” says Anna in a telephone interview from Chennai, where her music career has taken her.

She says she was as surprised as anyone when music director Gopi Sundar gave her ‘Appangal embadum.’“I believed there was no place for a voice like mine in the industry,” she says. The genre of movies in which her voice would fit effortlessly was not happening in Malayalam. “Fortunately, the industry is going through a new movement.”

Even when Anna sang ‘Mel mel’,another lilting number from Ustad Hotel with Naresh Iyer, she had no clue about ‘Appangal embadum’coming her way. “I was told to come in the afternoon and when I came in, I saw guitarist Donan and then I simply got into the song,” she remembers. “I never thought I would get such a song and I used to look doubtfully at the music director. But he was convinced and that gave me the energy,” says Anna.

With no serious training in music, Anna believes it is hard work and dedication that aided her. “My beginnings are humble, but I don’t want to be a one-hit wonder,” she says firmly. “My voice is God’s gift and I have done my share of hard work and practice. I put my heart and soul into it.”

Despite the absence of formal lessons, music has always been part of Anna. “I used to sing quite a lot of gospel songs. And my dad was into Bob Dylan and Rolling Stones and I grew up with rock music.” Of course, she was the tiny rock star at her father’s resort, where she would pick up the guitar and sing at the campfire for friends and guests. “Ultimately, my dad’s music has been my music.” And when Anna, a class six student, told her dad of her wish to learn the guitar, he took her to Sumesh Parameswar, the well-known guitarist. The guitar became a friend and she learnt along the way the dynamics of singing. Anna felt the package was complete, a la Bob Dylan.

With ‘Appangal embadum’getting everyone hooked, Anna says, “Everyone can hum it. People liked it as their ears fell on something new.” She has since sung three Tamil songs for Gopi Sundar, and the title track for another Malayalam movie, Ee Adutha Kalathu, again composed by Gopi Sundar. “He is doing a lot of experimental music and my voice is part of his experiment,” says Anna.